It’s taken me 5 years of college and probably 50 times teaching a lesson on food labels to truly understand how to read them. They’re overwhelming!
As a teenager, the only thing I read on a food label was the calories (not that it stopped me from downing an entire bag of cheddar pretzel Combos, but hey- at least I knew). While calories are important, something else catches my eye more these days.
As I’ve looked more deeply into nutrition science, I’ve realized the most important thing is the ingredients. Here’s what to look for:
1. the first ingredient listed makes up the majority of the product by weight
2. sugar can masquerade in many forms in a food so that companies don’t have to list it as the first ingredient- look for anything ending in ‘-ose’ (fructose, sucrose…)
3. the ingredients should be recognizable. The more crazy chemical sounding words you see, the more processed the food has been. Avoiding these foods is a main principal of clean eating.
When I started to think of food as fuel, I started to be a little more picky about what I am putting in my body. You are what you eat- and I don’t really care to be partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or high fructose corn syrup.
I’m not saying to disregard the rest of the food label. However, if you only include foods in your diet that have quality ingredients then you will likely also be cutting out foods that are a concern for fat, salt, or calories. Sorry Combos, looks like we’re overdue for a break-up.